The origin and legend of the "dream catcher."

“Dream catchers” are made today by Native American artists representing many Nations. Many people are under the impression that the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (sometimes collectively called “Sioux”) originated the dream catcher. While there are many Native American stories and legends about spiders and webs of various kinds, the Ojibwe actually originated the dream catcher; they are also known as “Chippewa” and were once known in antiquity as the “Anishnabe.” The Ojibwe, whose traditional homeland is around the Great Lakes region, have many ancient stories about the dream catcher…how it “came to be,” why it is used, and how it should be made. The following information is extracted from “Anishnabe” - as remembered by WayaGola, an Ojibwe elder.
Origin of the Dream Catcher

There was a time in Anishnabe history when the people were being tormented by nightmares. Many of the elders and "medicine people" tried to solve this problem, but no one made progress against these dreams. A council of many people was called. During this council, one elder had a vision of a spider's web in a hoop with one or more feathers and some beads attached. The totem would capture any bad dreams, while letting good ones pass through. They went to work fashioning dream catchers in the manner prescribed by the elder’s vision…and when the people started using them, the bad dreams went away.

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Application and Purpose of the Dream Catcher

The dream catcher is hung above a sleeping area, ideally in a place where the morning light will fall on it. It is the nature of a dream catcher to attract all dreams to its web. When bad dreams come, they cannot find their way through the woven pattern, and become trapped in the webbing…where the first light of day causes them to melt away and perish. Good dreams navigate their way through the center of the web, however, and they slide down the lowest-hanging feather to inspire the peaceful sleeper below.